Earthless have been one of the best instrumental bands that you might not know of. The band have recorded albums with 20 minute psychedelic jams that flat out ROCK. They have only featured vocals once in the past and it was on their Groundhogs cover of “Cherry Red.” That was 11 years ago. So when I found out that their new album “Black Heaven” was going to have vocals on most of the tracks, I was more than surprised.
Based on that lone cover with vocals, I was aware that guitarist Isaiah Mitchell could sing. But on “Black Heaven,” the world gets to find out just how well Mitchell can sing and it adds another weapon to Earthless’ arsenal. This does not mean that the band don’t still rock out, because they do. It means the songs aren’t 20 minute guitar solos but rather balanced 8 plus minute mini-epics with Earthless showing that they could be ready to take on the world.
Doing an album like “Black Heaven” is very much a double edged sword. On one hand, long time fans might be unwilling to part with those long instrumentals. On the other hand, an album like this WILL expand Earthless’ audience. The album kicks off with “Gifted by the Wind” which has a funky, power trio vibe akin to The James Gang with some southern rock tinge. It rocks, plain and simple.
“End to End” takes a bit to kick in but when it does, it’s awesome. It has a great guitar solo at the end by Mitchell which, were it on an older album, probably could last another 10 minutes or so. I suppose there’s more than one opportunity like this on the album for Earthless to expand these songs live. And that’s one major point here. Earthless is focusing more on the songs than the jams.
“Electric Flame” is another ass kicker which sounds like a heavier Gov’t Mule. Again, those concerned that there aren’t great solos on this album need to appreciate the ones that are there. And there is another great one on here. “Black Heaven” is not without instrumentals. There are 2 of them, though one of them (“Volt Rush”) is under TWO MINUTES”! GASP!
While that track really doesn’t seem all that necessary, it makes a nice intro into the other instrumental, the title track. This song is a showcase for what Earthless normally do, albeit in just under 9 minutes. The album closes out with the slow, majestic “Sudden End.” And while it has vocals, the guitar is more prominent than those vocals.
I love when bands take chances and this is a risk for Earthless. I think there’s enough of what Earthless has always done to please current fans and there’s another level of talent that will appeal to a wider audience. Maybe some people will think signing to Nuclear Blast somehow influenced this but Earthless do whatever they want. They still aren’t fashionable but they should be mentioned in the same breath as bands like The Sword who understand how to play classic rock with a modern feel. “Black Heaven” is Earthless firing on all cylinders after adding an extra one.
1. Gifted By The Wind
2. End To End
3. Electric Flame
4. Volt Rush
5. Black Heaven
6. Sudden End
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: 16 March 2018